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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published: July 02, 2021
“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
Welcome back to HBS.
Please open your Bible, once again, to 1 Timothy 4:1-6.
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.”
I remind everyone 1 Timothy chapter 3 dealt with godliness or godly conduct whereas chapter 4 deal’s primarily with the flip-side of that issue ungodliness.
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;”
Before we look at what Paul’s saying here I want y’all to consider his words to pastor Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:13-14 because they too speak of deception and unscrupulous “evil men:” in the “latter days” of “the dispensation of the grace of God:”
“But evil men and seducers (Greek = goes, pronounced: go-ace, Strong’s Greek #1114; and it means: a charlatan, a swindler, a shameless cheat or fraud) shall wax worse, deceiving, and being deceived. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;”
These were among the last words of the Apostle Paul, written in view of his impending martyrdom, to Timothy his beloved “son in the faith.” Paul’s circumstances were anything but encouraging for he knew his days on earth were numbered. Thus, to Paul it more than likely seemed the last days of the dispensation of grace were at hand. He had suffered many “persecutions” and “afflictions” and now “suffered trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds,” or imprisonment, again, even though he had committed no crime. Adding insult to injury, as it were, there were those among them who had resisted Paul’s teachings much like “Jannes and Jambres” had “resisted Moses” and the truth of God that he proclaimed (3:8). Paul said one of these men was “Alexander the coppersmith” who had done him “much evil” and had “greatly withstood his words” (4:14-15). So Paul’s teaching point is “Evil men and seducers” were literally popping up everywhere and this situation would not improve but would instead “wax worse, deceiving and being deceived.”
What’s more, there was defection among those assemblies he had preached God’s good news re: “the revelation of the mystery,” so that now, from his prison cell in Rome he wrote: “All they which are in Asia (Galatia) have turned away from me… Demas hath forsaken me… only Luke is with me” (2 Timothy 1:15; 4:10-11).
So then, what’s Paul’s parting advice to Timothy? Does he say: “Perhaps my approach to God’s Word was too intense because my methods have produced many enemies. Thus, re-thinking this, my advice is be more diplomatic, politically correct, and tolerant than I have been; by doing that, surely, you’ll please more people and have fewer problems.” Not so much. The record shows Paul to have been of all men most tactful and considerate of both Jew and Gentile and both the men and the women in the house churches for we all are equal in the eyes of God (Galatians 3:28). His sufferings were not the result of a contentious spirit, but of his faithfulness in proclaiming the message which so mortifies and enrages “that man of sin,” the devil, which is God’s gracious response to man’s most urgent need, and His answer to Satan’s diabolical scheming, “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
Thus, Paul exhorted Timothy to “continue (don’t let up) in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;” (3:14).
Perhaps you’re aware of the fact that there is much deception in this world; lying is the accepted norm. But perhaps not, for it’s possible to have been deceived without knowing it. It happened to me that’s how I know this to be true. But once I was introduced to “the truth” lies were easily recognized, and that’s exactly what they are, lies. Therefore Paul’s words stand as a witness to this truth. In life, these deceptions of false doctrine and error keep subtly coming at us. There are dangerous teachings around us at all times. Therefore, we, the Body of Christ, need to be cautious and on guard with the things we put in front of us, i.e., hear or read. Sometimes because of the volume of information coming at us through television, radio, the internet, and social media, we let our guard down and we begin tolerating them. We can feel safe when in fact we are not. We can very easily get caught in “the snare of the devil” (2 Timothy 2:26) and be led astray into error and unsound doctrine if we don’t become familiar with, and keep our focus on, the truth of God’s Word, rightly divided (2 Timothy 2:15).
“But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13).
This verse clearly shows that Paul had zero grand illusions that the world would become a utopia in his lifetime (something a lot of deceived people are seeking these days). Paul understood the reality of the situation and knew things would not get better. Rather, by divine revelation, he wrote that things and people will only “wax worse,” i.e., worsen as time marches ever onward. Paul informed Timothy (and us) that, as the dispensation of grace progresses, deception will only go from bad to worse, and it will get so out of hand that deceivers will believe their own lies. After peddling their lies for so long, they will actually come to believe them themselves. Of course, we know that they are ultimately being deceived by Satan who is “the father of lies” (John 8:44; (2 Corinthians 11:13-15; Revelation 12:9), so, bear this in mind.
Rather than commanding Timothy to go after deceivers to correct the lies that they believed and were spreading just about everywhere, Paul advised him, “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them” (2 Timothy 3:14).
Timothy needed to rely on and stand for what he knew to be true, i.e., what Paul had taught him personally. What Timothy learned from Paul, and had been “assured of” was “the revelation of the mystery,” the body of truth pertinent for this present dispensation of grace (Romans 16:25:27; Ephesians 3:1-9).
If history has taught us anything, we then know we’re never going to right all the wrongs or correct all the lies people speak and believe. It’s a waste of valuable time to try. We simply need to keep our focus on “the truth” and the proclamation of it. We need to do what Paul instructed Timothy to do, which is, “continue” or remain steadfast in the teachings of “the Word of His grace” (Acts 20:32) that the risen and glorified Lord Jesus Christ committed to Paul to preach to all. Plainly said, we must “continue” to stand for the gospel of grace committed to the Apostle Paul and “continue” to grow in our knowledge of it. Armed, as it were, with the knowledge our apostle provides us we are protected from falling prey to the schemes of Satan and the false teachings of men (Ephesians 4:14-16).
On that note, Paul writes, “Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). Rather than be spiritually immature and easily deceived, we are to speak the truth to one another, “in love,” “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). We are to train one another in truth, the foundational gospel truths, truths about who God is and what He has called us to do in this dispensation, hard truths of correction if that is needed, etc., bearing in mind our motivation in all of this is “love:” And “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10; 1 Corinthians 13:13; Galatians 6:9-10).
Returning to 1 Timothy 4:1, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;”
Because of the danger and the influence the false teachers presented to the Truth of God, Paul addressed this issue often in his epistles. For instance, in Acts 20:29-31, he wrote: “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.”
And in Romans 16:18 he wrote: "For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.”
In Galatians, Paul was stunned when he heard the Galatians were listening to and considering the words of the false teachers that infiltrated those house churches. They perverted the gospel of Christ, i.e., the gospel the risen Lord had charged Paul to preach everywhere: “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 6:10).
In Ephesians 5:6 he wrote, "Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.”
Paul also warned the Believers against spiritual deception (See 1 Corinthians 3:18; 6:9; Galatians 6:3; 1 Thessalonians 2:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:3).
The reason Paul said “seducers” will “wax worse” in the last days of the dispensation of the grace of God is because that’s what Satan and his ministers of righteousness have been doing since this dispensation began. The devil doesn’t want people to know “the truth” so he’s seducing people so as to blind their hearts and minds from “the truth” of God and Paul’s gospel, especially, that they might be saved (2 Corinthians 4:4).
As for 1 Peter 5:8, this is what Satan will be doing in the Tribulation, not today. Today Satan masquerades as an angel of light, and his deceived ministers not fully aware they have been deceived, act as “ministers of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). But, there’s nothing deceptive about a roaring lion!
From where I sit I’d say Satan’s plan (scheme) is working because few, not many, recognize the significance of Paul’s apostleship and his message re: “the revelation of the mystery.” Thus, people are literally walking in denominational darkness because they are not being taught the Scriptures, rightly divided, per God’s command (2 Timothy 2:15). Ergo, one cannot possibly walk in light of the Truth, if they are not being introduced to it. So then, all those who purposely or unknowingly in ignorance continue to deny Paul’s apostolic authority and the fact that 2/3rds of the N.T. have his name on it, which serve as an “attention-grabber” from the word go, are in fact, working for the devil as his “ministers of righteousness.”
Where the subject of Satan, false teachers, and false teaching are concerned, a good biblical example is found in Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth, Greece. We have examined this passage before, but for the sake of those who are relatively new to this study and to reinforce our learning, let’s look at that again:
“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
In verse 15 above, we find our apostle unmasking false teachers who have been working among the saints in Corinth. These men were attempting to turn Believers against Paul (the same thing is going on today) so as to gain their loyalty. Paul identified them as “false apostles and deceitful workmen.” In fact, in the previous verse he compared them to Satan, who disguises himself as “an angel of light.”
false teachers, also, have presented themselves to the Corinthians as workers
for good with impressive speaking skills. Paul called them the very servants of Satan. Like the devil, they pretend to be servants of
righteousness. They pretend to preach
Christ and His gospel, but instead preach a false version of both.
Clearly, this is not merely a group of teachers from another city disputing with Paul over subtle points of church doctrine. This is not even a group of unbelievers with sincere disagreements about what is true. These false teachers are intentional in their deception of the saints in Corinth. They are deliberately pretending to be something they are not in order to gain something for themselves be that popularity or perhaps ill-gotten gain as their true motivation. Paul writes, ominously, that their end will fit their deeds. This statement of fact should warn the Corinthians from getting too close to these men. Paul said in brief terms that their judgment is coming. I point out that Paul writes often about God's judgment for those who practice unrighteousness (Romans 2:6; Galatians 6:7–9; Philippians 3:18–19).
“But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;” (2 Timothy 3:14).
Paul’s lifestyle “assured” the Thessalonians his message was true (I Thessalonians 1:5) when he didn’t quit in the face of adversity (1 Thessalonians 2:1,2), didn’t deceive or flatter men as others did (2:3-5), didn’t seek their money (2:6) and didn’t bully them (2:7-8). His personal testimony also gave them this assurance (2:10), and that’s an assurance you can give others that Paul’s message is true. Timothy witnessed the grace of God actively working in and through Paul and these things “assured” him, as well.
Now let’s turn our attention to verse 4:1b:
“…giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;”
In the “latter times” of “the dispensation of the grace of God” Paul warns pastor Timothy (and us – the Body of Christ) to be especially watchful re: those who minister God’s Word. He said “some,” but not all, will “depart from the faith” that they once held in high regard. They will abandon the sound doctrine that was first delivered to them by the Apostle Paul and will instead “give heed to seducing spirits.” As they teach things that are contrary to Paul’s gospel and the Church doctrines he teaches in his epistles, this will cause a great deal of confusion among Believers.
So, the apostate teachings to which Paul refers to in verse 4:1-3, were not to originate with men, but with Satanic spirits. Look again at what he wrote: “Some will depart from the faith,” he said, “giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils (Greek = daimonion or demons).”
But why would these teachers knowingly depart from “the truth?” The reasons are many and varied to be sure but selfish pride and “filthy lucre,” or ill-gotten gain, might be found near the top of the list. The level of confusion increases dramatically when you consider the ministers who intentionally deceive the unsuspecting churchgoer to build a cult-like ministry. That statement hit a “nerve,” so I’ll pause here for effect and for your edification to present a sad but true story. I know a man who at one time could not get enough of God’s Truths. We used to spend a great deal of time discussing them on the phone and in person and that is a natural thing for like-minded Believers. When two or more get together at home around the kitchen table or in the hallway at church, the conversation invariably turns to the things of God, or His Truths, if it doesn’t, you might ask why that is. There is a brotherhood, (family) a sense of “oneness” which Paul referred to in his communication to the assembly at Ephesus and his other writings : “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism,” (Ephesians 4:4).
I considered that info important enough to mention before that which follows, which is, I can honestly say the man I knew truly “got it.” “It” meaning the things of God discovered and understood to be true by the use of right division in his personal Bible study. I really enjoyed those conversations because he was on fire for the Lord and that spilled over into his life. But one day the phone calls stopped. I didn’t hear from him for many months and then one day he called me, out of the blue, and began to talk about the new church he had found in his neighborhood and the “new” truths he was being taught by that minister. He said these truths all stemmed from the Jesuits of old who had “misused” God’s Word so as to deceive Christians. He said these “new” truths he found ran contrary to the Word of God found in the N.T., mainly, Paul’s teachings. He went on to say Christians today have a false sense of security because of it, in fact, these deceived people were on a straight-path to hellfire. His words to me, he said, were a warning lest I be deceived also. I asked, which church denomination is this? He said, “The Seventh Day Adventist” the church his daughter and grand-child attend.
I’m staying from my lesson plan but I just ask you to read along with me this short passage from Colossians 2 because it ties-in so well with the subject of deception, and because it’s God’s Word, not mind; see if this doesn’t look like Seventh Day Adventism:
“Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh” (Colossians 2:16-23).
Now I’m not saying Paul wrote this declaration specifically for the Seventh Day Adventists I’m just saying it fits. Thus, this is a key biblical text, warning us against any cult or – “ism,” or philosophy of religion that stresses human-works things such as legal obedience, ceremonies, dietary rules, self-discipline, or other works you can perform and supposedly achieve holiness through ritualized self-denial of such things.
In that passage above you have, in the plainest language, the principles distinctive (unique) to the Seventh Day Adventism movement and other cults of like manner. Adventism is a self-made (man- ordained) religion laden with rules about sabbath observance, diet, and other lifestyle issues. It is based largely on the visions of a woman named, Ellen Gould Harmon (Nov 26, 1827 – July 16, 1915). She was one of the American religious leaders who co-founded the Seventh Day Adventist Church, and whose prophecies and other guidance were central to that denomination’s early growth.
Paul’s remarks in the Colossian passage is the embodiment of everything the Lord opposed in regard to religious practices. He commanded Timothy to follow his lead in that regard (2 Timothy 4:2). For Paul said these hypocrites have “a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:5). In a word, they will deny the preaching of the cross, which is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 1:18). Those who come under their spell will have their “ears tickled” with inspirational messages, but there will be a deafening silence as far as Christ’s deity, the virgin birth, the shedding of the Lord Jesus Christ’s blood for the sins of all, etc. are concerned. Paul speaks clearly to all who will lend an ear when he said, “from such turn away.” If you fail to do so, you will be caught-up in their “web of deceit,” i.e., their unsound teaching, so beware!
Reading on we have Paul’s solution to avoid these dangers: “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them” (2 Timothy 3:14).
Ultimately, confusion and deception are masterful ploys of Satan, “the father of lies,” (John 8:44) and 2 Corinthians 11:14 declares that to deceive men he is “transformed into an angel of light.” The passage goes on to say: “Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers, also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (11:15).
This too fits and is in agreement with 1 Timothy 4:1-2. “Giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons,” these religious leaders “speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron.”
The scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day professed to believe the O.T. Scriptures, but perverted them by adding man-made religious rules to God’s Word and Jesus rebuked them for it saying: “But he (the Lord) answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:3-9; Acts 15:7-10).
The Pharisees were the religious leaders of the nation of Israel, but in Matthew 23, where the Lord pronounced His woes upon them, He called them “hypocrites” no less than seven times. What’s more, throughout that chapter He noted their hypocrisy, clearly implying that it was chiefly they who were responsible for His rejection by Jerusalem’s apostasy that He lamented saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 23:37-39).
These truths are important, which is the reason why I’m still on the first two verses of 1 Timothy 4. I need to emphasis the fact there are religious leaders, closer to home, than many people think, who, with already-seared consciences, “speak lies in hypocrisy.” So it’s important that y’all understand this, for the vast majority of Christendom continues on in innocent ignorance of the fact that “some” spiritual leaders would actually, and willfully, deceive them. Such people are easily taken in by the glitz and glamour of most churches nowadays and the seductive oratory coming from the lectern.
In short, don’t rely solely on your church leader (pastor, minister, etc.) to tell you what is God’s truth, instead, become Berean-like and “search the Scriptures daily” to see “whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11; Ephesians 4:14).
In a nutshell, Paul’s telling Timothy to follow him as he follows Christ. A well-rounded understanding of Paul’s epistles written to the Believers in the Age of God’s Grace will be a safeguard against error. The gospel Paul preached and the Church doctrines he taught Believers in every Grace Church will serve to protect you from being misled by those who preach something other than what God actually said and meant for you in “the dispensation of the grace of God” and, again, this information is found only in the writings of the Apostle Paul (See Romans thru Philemon).
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